E – Empathy – and Lack Of

Empathy (software)
Empathy (software) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Empathy is described as: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also: the capacity for this in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

A lot of people are able to sympathize, however, empathy is a little deeper than sympathy.  To sum it up: empathy is the ability to relate or ‘walk in someone else’s shoes’ where Sympathy is feeling sad, sorry or bad for someone.  Now, you  might not be one to mix these two up, but I know plenty of people who have.

I learned about empathy in drug & alcohol classes in college (the irony, right) and that lesson flipped a light on in my head.  In order to be good with people, empathy goes a long way.  This is true when dealing with alcoholics, addicts and the mentally challenged.  This also holds true when dealing with someone who has a story that is hard to grasp.

I’d like to say that after the mountains of crap I’ve climbed in my life that I am one of the most empathetic beings on the planet.  I can be; but not always.  I’m human, therefore I judge.  It happens and it is sad but I owe it to myself to be honest with myself and my readers.  There will be no sugar-coating on this blog… ever.

And here is the scary thing about empathy.  It cannot be taught.  It is something inherent inside of most beings, and other beings lack the trait.  Still, others, like me, are empathetic at times and other times think things like:

  • you got what you deserved.
  • I cannot relate.
  • I’ve heard it a million times.
  • that is not an excuse.
  • suck it up.

And who of us hasn’t thought these things when listening to another’s woes? We might think it about the mother who is a stripper, the father who has a hard time paying child support or the screaming boss.  It happens.

What is your experience with sympathy vs. empathy?

Keeping It Real

serenity
serenity (Photo credit: dragonflaiii)

So I was watching the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) this morning and there were all these fascinating episodes that dealt with “self.” Like, how we treat the self, how outside events impact the self and so much stuff I went out and bought a book by one of the people Oprah was interviewing.  “The Untethered Soul” by Michael A. Singer.  The book is to liberate us from a contained self-image.

Based solely on the interview, the information I gathered from the show and snippets of the book I scanned, I have hope that this book will break me through my final barrier… me.

I have always tried to keep it real.  I’ve tried to remain grounded in all I do, say or feel along with trying to be there for anyone who crosses my life path. But there are these things, these feelings, that get in the way on a consistent basis.  And when I let my head get the best of me, I am no longer keeping it real per say, but getting sucked into a myopic array of disillusionment which takes me back to that dark room of self-loathing.

Yeah, pretty messed up stuff.  The more messed up part of all this crap is that I project this putrid bile onto other human beings.  Instead of just being in a moment or looking at things for what they are, I tend to read deeper into whatever is going on and then I project my thoughts, insecurities and the like others.

This leads to:

  • self-doubt
  • self-loathing
  • insecurity
  • feeling less than
  • depression
  • self-sabotage
  • resentment

That is a pretty hefty list of awful feelings, ideals and all around yuckiness.

Lately, I have been way up in my head.  This is a tough place for me when I am trying to live a life of peace.  My head is not peaceful.  It is constantly chattering, whispering and telling me rotten things.  I believe these things.  I give my thoughts weight and that is when the horrible list above comes into play.  I used to drink and drug to get rid of these thoughts and feelings.  Drinking and drugging is not an option for me.

This is why I bought the book.  My thoughts (and yours) are so automatic, I never question them.  You’ve heard the saying, “I think, therefore I am.” UGH!!! How awful is that? I certainly do not want to be what I think!  My twelve-step program helps ( a lot!) but lately I just feel like I need an added tool.

As I go through this book (highlighting sentences and paragraphs like I always do) I will be updating my blog with what I have learned and if any of it is making sense.  It made sense on Oprah’s show, therefore, I am sure it will make sense.

Also, I signed up for 21 Day Meditation Challenge.  It is free and looks like a lot of fun.  Check it out!

How do you battle your demons?

That Damn Heart On My Sleeve

Heart on Sleeve!
Heart on Sleeve! (Photo credit: Caro’s Lines)

It’s true.  I am an emotional, loving, caring, forgiving human being who seems to never remember that it is NOT all about me and I should NOT take everything to the life-giving, all loving heart that is in my chest and on my sleeve.

I have a hard time handling any kind of rejection.

You wanna hurt me?  Ignore me.  Pretend I do not matter.  Treat me like one of the rest.  That shit hurts.  It hurts deep.

Maybe I am the “sensitive artist type” or I am just sensitive period.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that I love with all my heart and I just reveal myself (the real me) time and again and I get shit on and it hurts.

How do I be someone else?  How do I turn into this magical, mythical creature that never gets angry, hurt, upset, jealous, resentful or bruised?

This is the question I want answered.

Why do I do this?  Why do I pour my heart into everything?  The risk is always there and I know this.  But I give my heart anyway.  Over and over and over again.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t feel the hurt, the pain, the agony of rejection or dejection.  But then, I remember:

It is good for me to feel these things and sort them out. Because the moment I decide I can no longer handle feeling these feelings is the scary moment I might look to pick up a drink.  After all, not being able to handle my feelings was a huge part in my alcoholism.

So…

  • I journal.
  • I go to a meeting.
  • I talk to my friend, Heather.
  • I pray.
  • I think (this is not good).

The final thing I do is give it to God.  I have so many little papers in my God Box: things I want, things that bother me, people I cannot help.  All kinds of stuff.  I put those little pieces of paper in my God Box and then forget about them.  After I say a prayer and put my written thought in the God Box, I forget about it…

For a little while…

But, me being me with this heart on my sleeve, my head starts to mess with me again.  Sometimes I think wearing my heart on my sleeve is a huge character defect.  However, a lot of people (including my former sponsor) has told me it is an admirable trait.

Hmmmm…

How are you at handling your emotions? 

Anger: The Truth

Angry Talk (Comic Style)
Angry Talk (Comic Style) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I noticed something about myself yesterday and it wasn’t one of those, “oh wow, this is so cool!  I didn’t know I could do that!” epiphanies.  It was more like an, “are you freaking kidding me, why do I do this?” glaring defect.

Sometimes I act a certain way, think a certain way or feel a certain way simply because I think that I THINK this is what I am supposed to do.  Like, I really get upset over unmonumental bullcrap.  Sincerely. This light bulb went off in my head this morning.

So then I ask myself: “WHY AM I SO DAMN ANGRY?”  Like, why do I let my head control me to the point of borderline insanity?  I don’t know the answer to this question, but I do know that it drives me batty and I am in the painstaking process of changing the way I think so I can change the way I feel there by changing the way I act.

Simple? 

Sometimes.

Did you ever tell someone something and their reaction is along the lines of, “Well, just stop doing that.” or “Think about something else.” or (and this is my favorite) “Get over it.”

Get over it?! Cue bitter resentment teetering on unabated rage. “Nobody tells me to get over it!  I’ll get over it when I’m good and ready!” “How dare you tell me that.  You don’t know how I feel.”

Yeah, somebody call me the Waaambulance. 

So, this morning after much coffee and a bowl of Special K Fruit & Yogurt (okay, two bowls) mature thoughts started to creep in my head (kinda like a black goo, only not as ugly) and I started to think:

  • I do not have to feel this way! 
  • Anger is a choice and it’s on me if I choose anger (or any one of the subcategories of anger).
  • I can come back to these ugly thoughts later.
  • I will feel how I choose to feel today.

Let me repeat that last one:  I will feel how I choose to feel today.

And that there is the truth about anger.  We choose to feel angry, resentful, jealous, bitter and any of the other byproducts of hate.  We also choose to feel many of the byproducts of love.  We get to choose how we feel about anything at any moment in any situation.  We have that power. That’s some huge stuff right there! 

Today I have a choice and so do you. Today I will choose love over anger, confidence over insecurity and acceptance over jealousy.

What will you choose?

Those Damn Emotions!

English: emotionsSo I’m sitting there on my couch, I make a comment, someone comments on the comment I make and… BOOM! Commence being up in my head fo the next 36 hours.
“Why did they say that?” “Am I not good enough?” “How can I be better?” “Dammit, my ex’s were right.” “If only I had better(insert trait or quality here).”

Why do I have to take everything so personally?  The truth is, I don’t have to take everything so personally.  I kind of choose to when it comes down to it; we all do. Maybe it is the way I am wired, maybe it is the way I was raised… who freaking knows.  All I know is it ticks me off and while through my twelve step program I have learned tools to combat my inner demons, sometimes they blind side me as I sit there with my soul bleeding through my fingers.

Now, back in the day (like three years ago) I had to let my offender know exactly what wrong they had done me and you can believe, that poor soul wished they never saw me after I was through with them: definitely a form of hostage taking at the highest level.

As I’ve walked this journey of sobriety and self-discovery I noticed something.  I am either really up or really down and when I am in between (very rare) I feel like something is wrong. I do try to be somewhere in the middle and get nervous if I am there for too long.  My boyfriend pointed this out to me.  He said something like, “Babe, blah blah blah.”  The truth is I don’t remember.  But it had something to do with me being up and down.  Had his statement hit me on an emotional level, I would have remembered what he said verbatim.  But it didn’t, so I just shrugged it off.

These days, I have a tendency to still hold resentments (bad ju ju in recovery!) but I handle them in a different manner… sometimes.  I am an emotional creature.  I find that most artists, writers, etc. are more emotional than others.  Maybe that is why we draw and write… I don’t know the answer to that either.

What I do know is that I have a sickening knot in my stomach now and my program flew out the window.  No, I did not drink or drug, but this anger/resentment/rage thing is nauseating.  If I get the laundry done in time, I’ll head to the 7 pm meeting tonight that is right up the street.  And yeah, I say “get the laundry done” because no one else is going to frigging get it done.

So, what should I do when I feel like this?

Call my sponsor.

Call someone else in the program.

Get to a meeting.

What should I not do?

ISOLATE AND THINK…. I am very good at this. I need to unlearn this behavior… stat.

Expressing Emotion

English: Managing emotions - Identifying feelings
English: Managing emotions – Identifying feelings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Emotions are a part of our internal make-up.  All emotions derive from two core feelings: love and hate.  Slice it how you want, all the positive feelings we have stem from a form of love, all the negative feelings stem from hate.  

I just finished reading a great book (I reviewed it – the link to that will be up within a couple of weeks) called, “Why You Drink and How to Stop” by Veronica Valli.  I was skeptical at first, but I kept an open mind and although I am over six years into my sobriety, I learned some valuable information from this book regarding emotions.

One of the worst behaviors I ever learned was “acting out based on emotion.”  Being a woman who wears her heart on her sleeve, if something made me feel sad or angry, I would act accordingly.  Likewise, if something made me feel happy or fuzzy, the addict in me would react in a positive manner and want more, more, more.

Now, human beings are emotional beings.  Duh, like I am telling you something you do not already know.   However, when we let our emotions rule us, we get into trouble.  There is no law or rule that dictates “everyone must know how everyone feels all the time.”

I will share a psychotic story from my past:

            When I was 22 years old, I was already married for six years.  Yep, I got married when I was 16.  It was part of that whole “alcoholic thinking.” As an alcoholic, I thought outside circumstances could fix the way I felt inside always.

            I had found out my husband at the time was cheating on me and I went ballistic.  Like full on rage mode:  seeing red, black, shaking, and everything else, that comes with unabated rage. Being ruled by my emotions (all stemming from hate) I decided to do what I thought was in my best interests and show him.

            So, being out of my mind (and to make a long story short) I wound up smashing my beautiful 1986 Monte Carlo into his pick-up truck.  Yeah, not smart.  This is not the best way to express emotion!  Now I had new feelings and emotions to deal with: remorse, guilt and sorrow.

           In the midst of the insanity, I thought I was expressing emotion in a healthy way!  I mean, I was pissed and needed to let someone know, right? Well, maybe… but there are healthier ways to express emotion. 

            One of the best tools I learned in sobriety is to take a moment and calm the hell down.  Just because I am feeling “some kind of way” does not mean I need to freak out, hop in my car to drive like a maniac or start throwing dishes. 

            Some of the ways I have successfully controlled my emotions:

  • Calling a sponsor or a friend and talking it out.
  • Deep breathing.
  • Chanting a mantra.  “Feelings aren’t facts, facts aren’t feelings.”
  • Journaling! 
  • Going for a walk or some other physical exercise.
  • And yes, even taking a nap.

                        I know I have brought up journaling a bit in previous posts, but writing does help.  Moreover, finding what helps (not hinders or hurts) to control and deal with emotions is the key. 

                        I still have a tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve, which may just be one of those character defects I have to learn to control if it has not been removed.

            How do you express emotion?

The Terrifying Fourth Step

AA Big Book
AA Big Book (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Step Four: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Ah, yes. The step I became fearful of simply from others’ talk of it in the rooms. “Oh boy, wait ’til you get to the fourth step!” “You’re gonna do your fourth step? Good luck!”

It took me a while to get the fear of this step. The fourth step was a look at my internal makeup. What made me angry? What made me fearful? Jealous? Insecure? Angry? Hell yeah I wanted to talk about all this crap! Are you kidding? It was about time someone would listen to me!

So I got with my sponsor and we sat down and read the fourth step (out of the Big Book) and then I went home and wrote down in a nice little chart all the people who pissed me off, why they pissed me off and what part of me their behavior effected. Yes! This is why I am the way I am! These are the awful things that people did to me! Of course I was a drunk. How could I not be? You would be a drunk too if you had to put up with all this crap right here on these pieces of paper that I painstakingly wrote on for hours and hours as I wiped the tears away (alcoholics tend to have a flair for the dramatic).

I went back to my sponsor and we went over my fourth step. I felt great! I got to list all the reasons why I was the way I was! This whole getting sober thing was getting better and better. And then came the question I had to answer that made me understand why there was so much anguish around this step. It was the “second part” of Step Four.

What was my part in it? Say what??? My part? There was no way I had a part in the way someone else treated me. Little doe-eyed, innocent Darlene. What could I have possibly done? So we went back through the list. And I have to say, thank the heavens I was blessed with an open mind and an ability to WANT to look at my (emotional) insides (although I’m sure my physical insides are very lovely!).

Because what I found out about my part in the way others had treated me was not fun. Still, it was huge in my recovery. Yes, I had a part in the way my ex-husband treated me. Yes, I had a part in all the broken relationships I was in at some point. Yes, I had a part the degradation I received at my first real office job. All of this “I had a part in it” stuff was difficult to deal with.had been done But I had to deal with it nonetheless.

After I recognized my part in the situations I had been in, the wrong that had been done to me and the pain I had felt throughout my life, I had another road to travel down. I had to travel down the “Know Road.” And we all know, once we know, we can never not know. Surprisingly, recognizing my part in my past helped me. I was able to understand (for starters) what made me tick and why I did the things I did. This would lead me to continue rigorous honesty as I approached Step Five.

Coping In Sobriety

Clean and Sober
Clean and Sober (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I first got sober, it was pretty easy for me.  I’m not bragging, but I had hit such a low point that I figured getting clean and sober might well be worth a shot.  The one thing I hadn’t discovered in my new sobriety was ways to cope with life on life’s terms. This was definitely something I needed to figure out quickly.

See, life just kept on happening to me. It didn’t matter that I was clean and sober, or that I was trying to do the next right thing.  It didn’t matter that I was making a valiant effort to see my kids, to stay away from people, places and things or that I was working a rigorous twelve-step program.

My car still broke down, I still got yelled at by my boss and I still had (very) bad hair days.

Of course I would go into the “poor me” cloud.  “Hey, I’m doing the right thing… what’s this crap all about?” I had this grandiose sense of self (huge ego!) that since I finally started to do the right thing (after years of doing very wrong things) that I should get a reprieve of sorts and nothing bad should ever happen to me ever again.  Ever.

Reality check: shit happens. I had to deal with life on life’s terms and I had to find out pronto how to do that.

The only way I could do that was to go to meetings, be around other sober people who had serious clean time and work a good program.

I learned that drinking or drugging was not a coping tool.  It just added fuel to the already out of control fire that raged inside me.

I learned that I should start writing again and that I am a pretty good photographer.  I learned my triggers and how to avoid them most of the time.  Sometimes triggers still invaded my head space (usually when my mind was idle) and I learned that the best thing to do in that situation was to call another alcoholic in recovery. Maybe they could help me.  Turns out, I was helping them just as much as they were helping me.

I couldn’t wrap my head around that one.  How the hell could I possibly help someone with years of sobriety when I was so new? Now that I have over six years clean and sober, I know how.  Because when I talk to someone new in sobriety it puts things in perspective and reminds me of the way I used to think. I no longer think that way.

Some of the ways I learned to cope:

  • Go to a meeting. Talk to another alcoholic in recovery.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Write.
  • Go for a drive.
  • Listen to music.
  • Go to a park.

I can always come back to the problem later.  Obsessing and keeping the problem at the forefront of my mind will not help me.  And trust me, I am huge on obsession.  After all, I am an alcoholic and everything is about me.

If I had a dollar for every time I asked someone “What’s wrong?” with the presumption that it had to be something I did, I would be retired and living in my dream cabin in the mountains.

See, another HUGE thing I had to learn to cope with was myself.  I had to learn that people pleasing was not a coping tool, rather a way to mask whatever guilt or remorse I was feeling. I had to cope with that.  I had to learn how to recognize the difference between actually coping and sweeping the problem under the rug or enabling someone or using other poor methods:

  • drinking
  • drugging
  • silent scorn
  • blame
  • defensiveness
  • ignoring the feeling
  • manipulation

None of these ways worked!  These were not coping tools, these were character defects that I used to hurt people to get my way, pretending I was right (when I knew I was wrong).  Because as long as I was sure other people knew I was right, I felt better, if only for a short time.

How do you cope with day-to-day life or problems that come down your road?

The Stalker Within Us

Image: epdeatonville.org
Image: epdeatonville.org

Not all of us have been a stalker or a stalkee, but for those of us who have been on either end of this creepy spectrum, this post should prove either interesting or appalling.

To the stalkers:  Your behavior does not make us want to be with you.  Sending us text messages, calling us frequently and threatening us with “you’ll never meet anyone like me ever again” does not work.  Like… really?  We are freaking hoping we never meet anyone like you… ever. 

You see, we left your sorry ass because of your suffocating, over-bearing, jealous behavior.  Nope, doesn’t matter how hot you are/were or how great in the sack you were or all the times you brought us lunch… we do not want you.

It is over.  Time for you to move on.

To the stalkees: Protect yourself!  Document all the irrational behavior on your stalker’s part.  If you can change your email or cell number, do it.  If not, keep text messages, emails, and all other correspondence.  This will come in handy should you require a protection order.

Do everything in your power to keep the stalker at bay: block them on Facebook, ignore their rants via text message, email and voicemail.  Most importantly, if they are harassing you in person, go to the police and get a protection order.

These situations are volatile and can turn dangerous.  Protect yourself! 

When Things Don’t Go … Our Way

Tattered and Torn
Tattered and Torn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It will be a short post today.  My lovely internet is down at home.  So yeah, I am posting at the office.  This topic isn’t even in my list! But…

I had a situation happen over the weekend that had potential to turn pretty toxic.  We’ll just call it, “people who can’t let go.”  Anyway, there just comes a time when we have to say GOOD-BYE.

When we try to beat the square peg into the round hole, the square peg becomes worn… tattered… exhausted.  The round hole has moved on and so should probably the square peg.

For whatever reason, sometimes people who really want to be together just cannot be together because the relationship is toxic.  Maybe there is drugs involved, alcoholism, abuse, mistrust… the list goes on as to what could make a relationship toxic.  What makes it worse is when neither party recognizes the toxicity.

What makes it worse than that is when only one person recognizes the disaster masked with the word “love.” One person is desperately trying to hold on while the other is subtly trying to move on.

We will be touching on this topic in the coming months. Have a great week everyone!  Regularly scheduled blog posts will resume tomorrow.

Peace…